The crowded streets of New York may not be a destination of choice in the summertime heat, yet line the streets with food and wine, and people will come in droves. Some 1,275 guests at the 11th annual Culinary Evening with the California Winemasters did just that -- but they were actually strolling down the "Streets of New York" set at the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood, Calif. Held May 20, the affair raised a record $840,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Guests paid $225 per person to peruse the various mock neighborhoods while sampling fare from 26 chefs across the nation paired with wines from 48 California wineries, including Au Bon Climat, Duckhorn, Peter Michael, Ridge and Williams Selyem. Guests were given the opportunity to meet the actual head chefs and winemakers, putting faces to the names of the food and wine they love.
Erik Blauberg of New York's '21' Club pumped out Beluga caviar and crhme franche. Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., kept pace with cornets of Atlantic salmon and sweet red onion cream. A few steps away, Cal Stamenov of Carmel Valley's Bernardus Lodge served prawns with black truffles shoulder-to-shoulder with Thierry Rautureau of Rover's in Seattle, who prepared guinea fowl confit and foie gras terrine.
Meanwhile, winemaker Bob Levy and director Don Weaver served precious tastes of their Harlan Estate 1996. Naoko Dalla Valle poured her Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, while Ravenswood's Joel Peterson kept both hands busy serving 1997 vintages of his Monte Rosso and Teldeschi vineyard Zinfandels.
"It's the ultimate in multitasking. You're eating, drinking, bidding and looking for friends. Its such a great event," said bidder Ken Morris.
Auctioneers Lisa Hubbard and August Uribe of Sothebys and Dawn Kotsonis of Coulter & Associates shared gavel duties for the 48-lot live auction. A 6-liter bottle of Dalla Valle Maya 1996 fetched $12,000; a magnum of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 brought $8,000. A nine-day trip for two to Bordeaux, complete with first-class airfare and visits to first-growth chbteaus, went for $21,000. The events most popular lot, dinner for 10 with actor/comedian Robin Williams at the Compton Place Hotel in San Francisco, sold for $22,000, the highest bid of the evening.
"What we're most proud of is that 91 cents of every dollar we raise goes directly to research for finding a cure for CF," said event co-chair Barbara Balik. "That's better than any other health organization in the country."
Cystic fibrosis, which affects 1 in 2,000 people per year, is fatal, but the mean life expectancy for those with the disease has grown from 24 to 32 in the last 10 years, thanks in part to the fundraising efforts of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Since its inception, the Culinary Evening with the California Winemasters has raised $5 million for the charity.
"Today, with the pace of research, we are able to add one year of life to every CF patient with every year of research we fund," said Balik. "That's quite an accomplishment."